John (Johannes)

Born: December 22, 1831

Died: April 19, 1921

John Martens
Picture Page for John Martens' Family
Article from SD State Historical Center

Marriage: Theodora Tillemans (B: 1835 D: 1912) of Beugen Holland on April 4, 1858 in Green Bay

John Family Tree
Martha : 1859 (per 1880 Census)Deceased prior to 1898
Martin P.: July 11, 1859 - June 7, 1920
Cornelius William: January 21, 1860 - December 9, 1947
Henry Arnold. : February 3, 1863 - March 21, 1947
Joseph Adrian: April 11, 1865-1916
Bernardus : February 28, 1869 - Abt. 1894
Albert William : November 23, 1874 - Aug. 16, 1947
Francis (Frank) J. : 1872-12 Sep 1930
Mary Gertrude: October 11, 1876 - June 2, 1957
John and Theodora Martens  Family 1904
Wedding Picture 1859
50th Anniversary 1909

April 22, 1921

PIONEER SETTLERS OF GRANT COUNTY CALLED John Martens and Henry Dehlendorf Summoned Tuesday; Funeral Services Today

Two of Milbank's older residents passed away last Tuesday morning, April 19th, within a few hours of each other, Mr. John Martens and Mr. Henry Dehlendorf.

Mr. John Martens was one of the earliest of the pioneers to settle in Grant county, coming here in 1878, and taking up government land on the Whetstone, about six miles north of Milbank, and he lived upon this land for between thirty and forty years, by his industry and careful cultivation of his farm accumulating a competency while raising a large family of children to honorable manhood and womanhood.

His wife died some nine years ago, and since that time he has made his home with his daughter, Mrs. Van Stralen, at first on the home farm and later in the city. One of the kindliest of men it has been the privlege of the editor to meet in his forty years in South Dakota, John Martens was a splendid type of the foreign born citizen who comes to America to make his home and who appreciated the splendid privileges that have been granted him. In speaking of this country and his life here from the early pioneer days, when many difficulties had to be overcome and burdens borne he was ever wont to repeat, "it is a good country", and during the last few years of his life it always seemed to be one of his great pleasures to meet one of the early settlers and talk over the old times.

John Martens was born in Holland, December 21, 1831, emigrated to this country and settled at Green Bay, WI in 1850. He was married to Theodora Tillemans April 4, 1858. To them were born nine children, five of whom are still living: C. W., H. A., Frank J., Albert W. and Mary G. Van Stralen, all residing in or near Milbank. Twenty-three grand children, and eleven great grandchildren survive him. Mrs. Martens died March 18, 1912. Mr. Martens is also survived by a brother and sister who live in WI.

Mr. Martens filed on a preemption claim in Melrose township in September 1878, and moved his family here in 1879. He immediately proceeded to organize a school district and a school house was erected, which is still doing service. He also secured the establishment of a post office on his farm and had it named St. Joseph, was made postmaster, and for some time people as far away as Carona received their mail at this office, which was continued until he applied for the rural route from Milbank known as No. 2.

The first Catholic service in Grant county was held in his house in 1879 by Father Ryan, of Graceville. The first Democratic county convention was held at his home on the Whetstone in 1879.

He was always interested in local public matters, was supervisor of his town and treasurer for a number of years, and was for a short time county commissioner. He took active part in establishing the farmers elevator, the creamery and other public institutions, one of his last acts being to make a donation to the sisters hospital and furnishing a room for the same.

He was wont to recount the wonderful changes in travel that had taken place in his lifetime by relating that when he came to this country he crossed the ocean in a sail boat, making the voyage in 28 days, came from New York to Albany by steamboat and from Albany to Buffalo by canal boat drawn by horses, and from there to Green Bay by boat.

Chicago was but a small town, its streets resembling our country roads in a wet season. When he came to this country the railroad was being built to Appleton, MN and the Martens crossing on the Whetstone was known for a hundred miles east and west of his farm.

He made his first trip to Gary on horseback to serve as a juror, and was wont to contrast the then existing conditions with present day modes of travel and point to the fact that his dream or prediction that men would some day travel through the air had been realized. Living to the ripe old age of nearly ninety years, he was ready to go feeling that his task had been fully accomplished.

The funeral services will be held at the Catholic church this Friday morning at 10:00 a.m.

Martinus Martens' Family 1906


Memorial and Biographical Record, Vol. 7, Chicago, Ogle, 1898, pp 788-789. Copy provided by South Dakota State Historical Resource Center.


One of the most prominent and influential farmers of Melrose township, Grant County, lives on Section 18 of that township. He is a native of Holland, having been born in that country December 21, 1831.

His father, Martin Martens (Martinus) was also a native of Holland, born in the year 1795. He was a painter by occupation and came to America in 1850. He first settled in Green Bay, Wisconsin where he worked for a number of years at his trade, and later bought twenty acres of land upon which he lived the most of the time during the remainder of his life. He married Gertrude Johnson (Jannsen) while in Holland in the year 1828. She was born in 1800 and died on the farm in Brown County, Wisconsin in 1871. Martin Martens died at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Reymen, in April 1876, in Brown County.

The subject of our sketch is the second child of a family of seven children, all of whom are living. He came to America with his parents in 1850. He obtained his education in the schools of Holland and the night schools of Green Bay, Wisconsin. After landing in America, he made his home in Brown County, Wisconsin the most of the time at the home of his parents, operating his father's farm. He, however, owned a strip of land also, which he farmed in connection with his father's place.


April 4, 1857, in the city of Green Bay, he was united in marriage to Miss Dora Tillemans, also a native of Holland, born in that country January 3, 1835. Nine children, seven sons and two daughters, have been born to this union, two of whom, a son and a daughter, have since died: May G. and Bernard. The seven still surviving are as follows: Martin, C.W., Henry, Joseph, Frank, Albert and Mary, all born in Brown County, Wisconsin. Martin, C.W. and Joseph are married.


In the Spring of 1879, Mr. Martens moved to Grant County, Dakota and filed a claim to the south half of the northwest quarter of section 18, Melrose township, to which he has added from time to time until he now owns an excellent farm of six hundred and forty acres. Mr. Martens made his trip to Dakota by rail as far as Gary, South Dakota, and the rest of the way with wagons. The nearest station at that time was Appleton, Minnesota, where most of the trading was done, although they also went to Morris, Minnesota, and Gary, South Dakota. The country then was little else than a vast waste of prairie. Since then much progress has been made in the settlement and development of the country and our subject has kept abreast of the times, and his place is among the very best in the township of Melrose. He lives in a fine brick residence, it being the first brick dwelling to be created in the county. It is very unique and modern in every particular, and is appreciated very much by the whole family. Mr. Martens in particular, may well feel proud of it, as it is a monument to his thrift and worth as a citizen, and his more than ordinary business capacity. While he has proven himself a practical and scientific farmer, and has devoted to that calling most of his time, yet he has also found time to look after the affairs of the county, and has become quite prominent in local and county politics, being identified with the Democratic party. He has served on the board of county commissioners two years, and has also held the position of chairman of the township board, and is the present township treasurer. Mr. Martens and family attend the Catholic church at Milbank.

Article received from Alicia Martens. For more information Lynelle

OBITUARY - Milbank City SD:

FATHER TIME CLAIMS LONG TIME RESIDENT Another of the staunch pioneers who helped blaze the path for civilization in this section of the northwest, and who had been deeply interested in its development for a peiod of more than forty years, yielded tot he inevitable Tuesday forenoon, when death claimed John Martens, one of the pioneers of Melrose township. The end was not unexpected, the deceased having hovered in the shadow of death of nearly three weeks previous. He had made his peace with his Maker and was ready and resigned for some time to face the end.

John Martens was born in Holland December 31, 1831. He came to America in 1850, locating at Green Bay, WI where he was united in marriage on April 14, 1858, with Theodora Tillemans, and to this union was born nine children, five of whom survive him, namely, C. W. and H. A. Martens, of this city; Frank J. and Albert W. Martens, of Melrose township, and Mrs. Anton (Mary) Van Stralen of Milbank. He also leaves 23 grandchildren. Mrs. Martens died March 18, 1912.

In September, 1878, Mr. Martens filed a pre-emption claim in Melrose township, this county, and in 1879 located upon the same where he resided until two years ago, when he came to Milbank and made his home with his daughter, Mrs. Anton Van Stralen and family.

Deceased always took an active interest in public matters and the advancement and betterment of the community in which he lived, and shortly after landing in Melrose township set on foot a movement for the organization of a district school in his neighborhood, with the result that a school building was soon erected and is still doing service. He also applied for and had established a post office on his farm, which was named St. Joseph, and in the early days people from as far distant as the Carona neighborhood, received their mail at this office. Mr. Martens was postmaster and served as such 22 years, until the office was discontinued.

Still keeping pace with the advancement of the times, he then applied for the establishment of a rural farm delivery route, (remainder is missing words)


MRS. MARTENS DEAD Another Grant County Pioneer Goes to Her Reward. Mrs. Theodora Martens, wife of John Martens, of Melrose township, died at her home at 3:00 o'clock Monday afternoon, March 18th, at the advanced age of 77 years, 2 months and 15 days. For more than a year past she had been failing steadily and for some weeks her death was looked for at almost any time.

Mrs. Martens was born in Beugen Holland, January 3, 1835, and came to America and located at Green Bay, WI in 1856. Her maiden name was Theodora Tillemans and she was united in marriage with Mr. Martens at Green Bay, April 4, 1858.

Mr. and Mrs. Martens were among the pioneer settlers of this country, coming here from Green Bay in 1879, and taking up a homstead in Melrose township where they have resided continuously ever since, and in her death another is removed from the fast thinning ranks of the sturdy men and women who faced the hardships and trials of pioneer days in Dakota territory.

Mrs. Martens was the mother of nine children, seven sons and two daughters, and is survived by six sons and one daughter as follows: M. P. Martens, Kenmare ND; C. W. and H. A. Martens, of this city; Joseph A. Martens of Lemmon, this state, and Frank and Albert Martens and Mrs. Anthony Van Stralen, who reside upon the old homestead.

The deceased has ever been a kind and loving wife and mother and hre life has been such that it can be looked up to by her fellow beings as a model to pattern after. She has been a life-long and faithful believer in the Catholic faith, and the funeral will be held (remainder missing).

John Martens Family Graves located at St. Lawrence Catholic Cemetery in Milbank, SD. Pictures by Marianne Lantis. (08/2009)

Article taken from "100 Years in Grant County South Dakota 1878-1978" by Grant County Historical Society, Dedicated to The Pioneers Who Settled Grant County.

A Happening in Milbank

Lynelle Eck her sister Anita and Granddaughter Alexa made a special trip to the homestead of the head of their family line on May 18, 2009. Below are some of the wonderful pictures Lynelle shared with me:

Anita, John's Wife, Marianne, John and Alexa
John Korstjens (mother is Agatha, whose mother is Mary -- daughter of Johannes) and his wife came to meet us.

Bay Window 1892 First Post Office still on  John's Property
Little School House Front Porch of the Little School House
My Favorite Picture:  The barn circa 1909
Alexa Lilac Bushes .  These were originally planted in 1892
In Front of the Visitor's Center Anita and Alexa
Alexa with friend and cousins Another of my favorites (from an Artistic view):  Windmill
Anita, Lynelle, Dale, Marianne and Marianne's Mom  (Mrs. Van Stralen)